• by Hector Bojorquez • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 2006 •
During the heady days of the dot com boom, schools across the nation received a much-needed boost in hardware, network connectivity and staff development. In Texas alone, tons of money spent on preparing educators for new approaches and new solutions. The promise of technology integration across the content areas seemed to be within our grasp.
Yet, as reported in the 2004-05 Texas Star Charts, only 30 percent of schools report using technology regularly in instruction. After almost 10 years of federal, state and local efforts, this figure is troubling. Ask any educator about these numbers and invariably the answer will be, “Will technology guarantee increased student achievement on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills?”
In the era of the No Child Left Behind Act, technology integration has become another casualty of high-stakes assessment. Unfortunately as educators, we hesitate to take risks on methods that do not seem to guarantee results on a test. So we hedge our bets with traditional pedagogies, in spite of the fact that tests like the TAKS are anything but traditional. In effect, administrators continuously struggle with how much emphasis to put on assessments compared to all other educational goals.
Yet, as administrators struggle with the compatibility of high-stakes testing and authentic educational pedagogy, there is much that can be done to prepare our children without sacrificing greater educational goals. Technology integration across the content areas presents an opportunity to deliver sound, forward-looking student-centered instruction and simultaneously addresses higher order thinking skills as assessed on our state-mandated tests.
Much of the responsibility falls on classroom teachers to implement educational initiatives. But, without explicit directions, encouragement or clearly defined expectations, teachers are left without the added benefit of guidance and support. So what does an administrator do and what resources are available to help make technology integration a reality? Are there steps, guides and recommendations available to help administrators implement technology integration on their campuses?
There are. And school districts across Texas are required by law to have technology plans in place. But as with any plan, the work is always in the details. And if there are no clearly defined steps and expectations, it is up to the administrator to be the change agent. Following are some initial steps that administrators can take.
Bank on Established Technology Standards
Administrators do not have to start from scratch when setting the stage for change on their campuses. Across the country, technology standards have been adopted for students, teachers and administrators. The standards adopted by state educational agencies have, for the most part, come from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) project.
In Texas, the Technology Application Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TA-TEKS) clearly outlines the state’s expectations for students with a very specific goal. All Texas students must be technologically literate by eighth grade. Texas standards explicitly outline skills and processes into four strands: foundations, information acquisition, problem solving and communications.
The expectation in Texas is that kindergarten through fifth grade technology instruction will be integrated across all content areas. In sixth through eighth grades, technology is integrated unless a specific computer course is offered and required. Apart from specific technology classes, there are no other standards for high school. Just as there are no specific standards for decoding in secondary English classes, there are no secondary technology standards across the content areas. It is simply assumed that technology integration will be taking place at that level.
Provide Instructional Models and Frameworks
Once instructors are aware of state standards, an administrator should begin to pose the following questions: What should I look for in the classroom? What are students doing? What are teachers doing?
This is a sticking point in any discussion of technology integration. Too often, what passes for technology integration is nothing more than high tech “drill and kill.” We are all familiar with computer lab time where students disengage and simply answer dozens of questions. This should never be confused with effective use of technology or technology integration. It is tempting to do because administrators can point to logs, sign-in sheets and graphs that show student use and progress in such environments as evidence of impact.
While there may be a place for this type of computer-aided instruction under certain conditions (like credit recovery or computation practice), it is not the holy grail of instructional technology.
In order to avoid simplistic use of technology and instructional time, it is well worth the effort for administrators to set aside staff development time on instructional models and frameworks.
Models available for study and implementation include frameworks such as Levels of Technology implementation (LoTi), the Big6 information literacy model, and the Research, Analysis and Communication skills (RAC) model. While these models vary in implementation, research basis and longevity, they all share one critical aspect: emphasis on Bloom’s taxonomy as their pedagogical underpinning.
The LoTi, for example, helps instructors identify and categorize technology-infused education on a scale (0 to 6) that rates the cognitive complexity of projects and practices. Educators can use the LoTi framework to plan classroom activities that emphasize analysis and evaluation over simple regurgitation.
For example, after studying the LoTi, it becomes obvious to instructors that a PowerPoint presentation that simply presents the causes of World War II is not as powerful as a movie made with Microsoft’s Moviemaker where students present arguments for or against using the bomb on Hiroshima, using footage from the Library of Congress and their own narrations. Obviously, the higher order thinking skills involved in creating such a movie are far more complex.
Frameworks such as the LoTi, provide a common language for instructors and administrators to use as expectations are set. Furthermore, when the case is made that authentic technology integration can be used to foster higher order thinking skills, the door is opened to discussions of the immediate application of using technology as a richer tool to prepare students for state tests that are increasingly challenging.
Providing and facilitating a vision for a school begins with these simple steps, getting the information out to instructors about standards and using available frameworks. Setting expectations is not a difficult task. Implementing change is. But fully implementing technology integration as a purposeful tool in our children’s education is no longer optional regardless of the tension that exists because of high-stakes assessments. The added pay-off is that effective technology integration helps students learn the content.
Hector Borjorquez is the web specialist in the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at: email@example.com
[©2006, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June – July 2006 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]